The 10th Annual Summer List

It’s hard to believe this is my tenth annual summer list, but as it’s the first official day of summer, here are my latest thoughts for enjoying summer to the fullest:

1. Adjust or rewrite a life goal or summer list item, because sometimes, you might look up and discover you are flat out wrong, stupid, or in my case, wrong-stupid. Two years ago, I wrote about reading a book you’ve “spent your whole life avoiding” and declared that mine would be Moby Dick. Alas, two years later, my Kindle reports I’m only 40% of the way through Moby Dick, on the exact page I was on a year ago. I just can’t do it.My apologies, Mr. Melville. I’m sure it’s a fine, fine book for people who are not me. But I’m waving the white flag at the white whale.

So, instead of picking a book you’ve avoided, which might be the dumbest advice ever from a reading specialist, I’m adjusting my goal to “pick a book you simply haven’t gotten around to yet.” For me, this summer’s selection is Anna Karenina, and though it is 940 pages of small print, I’m happy to report I’m already on page 221 and am experiencing the pure joy of reading about something other than whale hunts.

2. Try out a new physical activity, like archery, an Island Family favorite dating back to our RV trips years ago. If you like the idea of archery, I’d even recommend walking around wearing your bow and arrow for a day.

Trust me, there’s nothing like a bow and arrow on your back to make you feel fierce. This year, our Alaskan vacation was canceled due to COVID-19, so we decided to rent a cabin in the Carolina mountains instead. We spent the time hiking the terrain around our cabin and making fire pits in the yard, and one day, we drove into town and purchased a bow and arrow. The kids practiced on all sorts of targets, and now we are all practically Legolas in our own minds.

3. Post your list somewhere where you will see it every day and remember your summer goals. Baby-Girl posted hers on her wall this year. She’s grown older, so gone are the days of “dip your hair in a little bucket of water” and “have a Mom’s camp.” They’ve been replaced by goals like getting her cartilage pierced, designing a dream room, and creating a summer playlist. Her list is lofty; this year, she has a whopping 124 items that also include time-consuming endeavors like “5+ all-nighters” (we currently allow 1 per summer), “make $1000” (she’s thirteen), and “write a book” (length, subject, genre, and quality not specified).

4. Write your name on something. It could be done once in concrete (your own, that is) or it could be done daily in the sand, but stake your claim, at least until the tide rolls in again.

5. Read a book or watch a movie that makes you both laugh and cry. If nonfiction is your thing, I just read and can recommend Stand All the Way Up by Sophie Hudson, author of the Boo Mama blog. She writes about family, her students, and her Christian faith in a way that makes you laugh, cry, and in a couple of spots, cry-laugh. If you appreciate literary fiction, I’d recommend any of Flannery O’Connor’s short stories but suggest starting with “The Displaced Person.” Her vision is razor sharp and convicting, and her humor, once you see it, is wicked smart. You might be familiar with her short story “A Good Man Is Hard to Find,” which has been anthologized countless times. But don’t take my recommendations. You can search under “movies/books that make you laugh and cry” and there are an army of sites with lists at the ready. (Some of them scare me, but that’s not the point.)

6. Go ghost crab hunting with a young child or a dog. My children are not young anymore, and they’ve grown up near the beach, so they don’t squeal the way they used to when their flashlights catch the scurrying of a crab. However, we now have a dog, Aslan, and he’s the energy of three children in one when we take him out on the beach at night. Normally, he’s hesitant around waves, but if he sees a crab, the waves fall into the world of afterthought. We don’t even need to keep our flashlights on to find them now; Aslan leads the way and we just follow. With Running Man now merely the whisper of a long-gone era and the kids growing older by the second, it just adds a layer of cardio drama to what might otherwise be a peaceful night stroll.

7. Remind yourself that, amid all that changes, some things still stay the same years later.

And then? Watch for it.

8. Star gaze, or as Baby-Girl put it on her summer list, “stare gaze.” I laughed for a second at the image the misspelling brought to mind, and then I thought about it. How much do we really stare gaze at anything in 2020, in a world of clicks and swipes and eye-gouging headlines? When do we look, for more than three seconds, at anything?

Last night, for an uninterrupted half hour, I stare gazed at the sky as the sun fell low behind the distant live oaks and palm trees. There was a little bit of magic in that twilit moment of stare gazing.

9. I’m stealing from Baby-Girl one more time here by including the last item on her list: “Have the best summer.” So read and stare gaze and dip your hair in water buckets.

Then, arm yourself, and go out into the world and “have your best summer.” Happy Summer everyone!

For the last nine lists, go here:

The Summer List of 2011

The Summer List of 2012

The Summer List of 2013

The Summer List of 2014

The Summer List of 2015

The Summer List of 2016

The Summer List of 2017

The Summer List of 2018

The Summer List of 2019

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